Barriers and opportunities for refugee entrepreneurship in Africa: a social capital perspective




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Palgrave Macmillan


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Peer reviewed



The United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) reports that there are 25.9 million refugees and 70.8 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, and only a small fraction are able to return to their former homes (UNHCR 2020). Despite the severe difficulties and trauma associated with forced displacement, refugees often harness social capital to rebuild their livelihoods through entrepreneurial activities. This chapter proposes a conceptual framework that explains the interactions between different forms of social capital and the key challenges and opportunities for refugee entrepreneurship. We suggest that refugees can draw on their bonding and bridging social capital for information sharing, knowledge exchange and entrepreneurial skills development; they can also harness their linking social capital to access and consolidate new market opportunities. We also reflect on the dynamics of changing network structure within refugee communities, especially within the context of heterogeneous composition of refugee settlements. Finally, the chapter considers the special case of refugee entrepreneurship in Kenya, where a unique policy instrument imposed by the government poses an additional barrier to refugees’ entrepreneurial opportunities. The chapter discusses the extent to which social capital is helping Kenyan refugees to surmount these additional barriers in their bid to rebuild their lives through entrepreneurial activities.



Refugee entrepreneurship, Social capital, Structural holes, Self-reliance


Luseno, T., Kolade, O. (2022) Barriers and opportunities for refugee entrepreneurship in Africa: a social capital perspective. In: Kolade, O., Rae, D., Obembe, D., Woldesenbet Beta, K. (Eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Africa Entrepreneurship, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 407–435.


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